OPINION: Better management of local rivers

DEAR News Of The Area,

CONGRATULATIONS to Beverly Gibbs from ‘Save the Nambucca River’ for her letter in NOTA on 28 October 2022.

As a child, during school holidays we would visit our relatives’ farm.

I remember going down to the Taylors Arm River to swim in the beautiful swimming hole cleaned out by the man who dredged the gravel.

After we moved here over 45 years ago, our neighbours would let us know when the same man would be taking gravel from the river in case we needed to pump as the dredging could impact on the beautiful clear water for a couple of days.

At Boat Harbour Bridge, near where the second picture included with Beverly’s article was taken, there were beautiful swimming holes, and you could even dive off the old bridge – now washed away.

The water has always been crystal clear – like spring water.

Other than flooding events, the water is still as clear and pristine as it was years ago once the water clears after a flooding event or downpour.

For decades, gravel was judiciously extracted from key points where it was likely to build up.

That was how most of the rivers were managed and managed well.

It helped to maintain deep pondage for the fish and helped the river do what it should do – and that is to hold water.

Fortunately, it also kept the tidal zone contained during dry times as the last thing anyone would want is the tidal zone moving further upriver and killing valuable riverine vegetation.

Then along came the gravel extraction ban!

The photos included in the article clearly show the results of this blanket ban.

We used to be taught the benefit of using the deposits that flowed down along the Nile Delta and how this helped ancient Egyptians survive.

These silty deposits were so valuable as they helped promote water retention and air circulation.

That was how they managed their river and used the natural resources.

For a while some local farmers managed to get approval to remove some of the material from their waterholes to use only on their own private roads.

Permission was sought to permit clearing some ponds to use the gravel on local roads upriver – what would seem a sensible solution as before the river was heavily impacted by this ban, much of the gravel comes from heavy downpours rushing down the road network and ultimately into the rivers.

This would have saved the ratepayers substantial money in cartage alone.

However, the cost of getting approval from the relevant authority and the time it would take to get that approval was far greater and could take three years to be approved.

Our rivers are now clogged.

Just imagine the gutters around your house, filled with leaves etc that cannot hold water.

The gutters overflow.

Clogged rivers hold less water; the ponds are filled up impacting fish habitats and water availability.

During dry times – the saltwater moves further inland, poisoning the precious riverine vegetation.

Locals are concerned about bringing in foreign materials for our roads.

Combine all this with the fact that trees which fall into the river are not permitted to be removed from the river where they have created a domino effect during flood time, and the photos in the article show the devastating results.

There are further impacts.

The last drought was long, harsh, and not acknowledged.

Trees growing on the riverbank searched for water with their roots and continued to grow far beyond the sustainability of some of the riverbanks.

This issue was reported to the relevant authority, while the problem was acknowledged, no action was taken to address the issue.

The reason for trying to get some remediation work carried out in this area was because part of the bank is very close to Taylors Arm Road, thereby placing the road at risk.

As the drought continued, the riverbanks became parched as available water diminished or turned to salt.

Then just three years ago, as we all recall, the bushfire ripped down from Kian Road (a little-known fire trail) and set those trees alight.

The fire was so intense. Included in those trees was one with a blaze made when the area was originally surveyed probably over one hundred years ago.

The fire burnt the trees and the roots under the ground.

From crevices in the riverbank, you could see the red glowing roots.

While we were happy to see rain when it eventually fell, as always happens, the drought ended with a flood.

The massive force of the water took out trees and devastated great swathes of riverbank.

Much of the precious riverine vegetation has gone and even more riverbanks were washed into the already clogged river.

Just like when you run a bath and the bath runs over – so the water spreads everywhere and cannot be stored or effectively clean out the clogged estuary, and therefore is wasted.

The riverbanks remain susceptible, but so too does the estuary.

What will happen when the slug of silt moving down river meets the sand that washes in from the ocean?

What happens when two east coast lows combine?

When Landcare was first introduced to the Valley, there were many small projects and a few large projects carried out on the rivers.

How these have been assessed or the outcomes may never have taken place.

While the focus seems to be on planting trees, it is time to get back to the rivers.

For decades, those who have sought better management of our local rivers have been thwarted by rules and regulations.

Legislation introduced following well-intended groups intervention have resulted in further degradation of our rivers.

At great cost, many studies were carried out by Catchment Management and Water Management Committees who were charged with such governance.

However, for outcomes, this governance was not balanced.

Consideration should always be given to consequences, and this did not happen when the blanket ban was introduced.

Janine REED,

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